All about deer hunting and baloney sandwiches
I glanced to my right, and there, 30 yards away, stood the deer I’d been hoping to see. It had been a long morning. I was making the hunt for my friend Joe Thompson.
Bro. Joe (A retired minister and seminary classmate) loves venison as much as any person I’ve ever known. However at age 90, although as spry as the proverbial cricket, he now understandably hunts very little himself. Therefore for the past several years, it has been my happy task to shoot a deer for Joe and his wife Jean.
I could not have picked a better day for the hunt. It was early December. It was shirt sleeve weather, and the hardwood forest where I’d planned to set up at the best stand on my lease, could not have been a more beautiful spot. The stand overlooked an acre clearing we’d bush hogged out in the middle of the woods and was surrounded by huge Oaks. The leaves remaining on the trees were a golden yellow, and falling rapidly in the light breeze that blew from the northeast. At times the leaves appeared almost like huge yellow snowflakes as they filled the air in their decent to the ground. It was a perfect day.
It was also a day I’d prepared for with great care. The night before, after setting out my Ruger Number One rifle, I’d loaded my backpack with everything I needed for the following day: binoculars, scent off, wind direction indicator, my tiny but powerful flashlight, a light camo jacket, my buck knife, two reserve 7x57 cartridges, and a bottle of water.
The following morning I added a baloney sandwich, (my usual fare for deer hunting) to the pack. If there’s anything better than a baloney sandwich, I have yet to find it, and question whether anything superior even exists. If so, it would have to be something on the order of mana from Heaven. At any rate I was now prepared to stay in the woods as long as it took to get my friend some venison.
After driving to the lease, I unloaded my side by side and rode a quarter mile to the edge of the swamp. After walking the rest of the way to the stand I loaded my rifle (The Ruger Number One is a single shot) and got settled in just as the sun was rising. I know, of course, conventional wisdom says a hunter should be on his stand at least thirty minutes before first light. However, with the passing of years, I have come to largely ignore that bit of advice.
Those, who like me, have reached the Biblical three score and ten will understand why I have done so. Anyway, as every hunter knows, some deer move throughout the day, especially during the rut. Although this hunt occurred several weeks prior to the rut, I didn’t feel I had diminished my chances of success by arriving at sunrise rather than setting up an hour or so earlier. Some of the most miserable experiences of my hunting career, (as well as some of the best) have occurred on mornings when I arrived at my stand long before first light to sit cold and shivering until day break.
This morning, however, I was not uncomfortable in the least and was supremely confident of success as I scanned the area. I never cease to be amazed at the number of objects in the woods that look like deer as the angle of light changes during the day. This morning was no exception as I passed the time by watching the antics of a grey squirrel feeding nearby. I had never had a deer come into the clearing from my right and so, I, for the most part, concentrated on the area to my left and to my immediate front. I paid little attention to the woods on the other side of the stand. That was a mistake as it turned out. By 11 o’clock, I was beginning to lose some of my confidence. However, when I glanced off to the right, I saw the deer mentioned at the beginning of the story. It was standing inside the clearing on the logging road I had followed to the stand.
On this trip, I was not really looking for antlers since in my opinion a young doe provides the best venison there is. I looked through my binoculars at the animal to be absolutely sure it was a doe and not a spike buck. It was In fact a doe. As it turned out I didn’t actually need the binoculars since the deer revealed its identity by answering a call of nature. The animal was just what I was hoping for. There was one big problem however. With the deer to my extreme right, (I’m right handed.) and my facing straight forward, it was impossible to shoot with any hope of a hit. So I waited until it moved forward a few feet to change the angle of the shot. Then standing up and slowly turning to face the deer, I pressed my back against the tree to which the stand was anchored. Thus steadied, I brought the crosshairs of my scope to rest on the deer’s shoulder. More importantly I was able to keep them in place. After squeezing off my shot, I saw the deer stumble, and watched as it ran from the clearing.
I sat back down beset with doubts. Did the deer actually stumble from a hit, or did it stumble in its frantic effort to get to the safety of the woods? Could my bullet have clipped a twig and caused me to miss? After waiting fifteen minutes, I climbed down and walked to where the deer had been standing. There my questions were answered. The animal had been hit and hit hard. I followed the trail without difficulty a few yards to where the deer had collided with a sapling. I knew then I had venison and found the doe lying just beyond that point.
Leaving it, I walked out to my side by side and rode back to the clearing. I was able to ford a spring branch that crossed the road only by shifting to four-wheeled drive. Even then I just barely made it up the steep bank on the other side.
I rode as close as I could to the deer and decided to have lunch before loading it for the drive back to my pickup. I broke out my baloney sandwich and made a delightful discovery. As wonderful as a baloney sandwich is anytime, anywhere, it’s even better in an Oak forest when you’ve just shot a “good” deer for a good friend.